BUCKHANNON — In light of the pandemic and recent turmoil surrounding law enforcement across the nation, the Buckhannon Police Department’s Volunteers in Police Service (VIPS) are planning to host a countywide Law Enforcement Recognition Banquet on October 16, 2021.
VIPS Coordinator Steve Wykoff and Assistant Coordinator Jewel Fisher presented the plan to the Upshur County Commission and City Council Thursday, requesting funding for the special event that will recognize and honor officers from the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department, Buckhannon Police Department, the Buckhannon Detachment of the West Virginia State Police and the West Virginia Natural Resources Police.
Wykoff noted that people from other places often consider West Virginia to be “backward and remote,” but added, “It is good to be in West Virginia during times like this. We don’t have a lot of the rioting against law enforcement and protest that lot of these other places have.” Even though West Virginia has not been overly impacted by such events, Wykoff expressed that it unfortunately still affects the morale of officers. Therefore, VIPS would like to recognize the officers who protect and serve local communities.
This banquet is one they would like to conduct on an annual basis. “We have a great group of law enforcement officers in our county, and they deserve to be recognized for their service now more than ever. There is too much negativity shown towards law enforcement and we need to show the officers our support,” Fisher articulated to County Commissioners Thursday morning.
Hoping for a decline in the COVID-19 delta variant by fall, the recognition banquet is scheduled to take place in the Event Center at Brushy Fork on October 16. VIPS sought both the county and city for help in providing funds to purchase the food and recognition plaques. Fisher reported that the menu and cost of the food is approximately $1,500, including the rental fee and the recognition plaques. VIPS will provide desserts and have already paid the $265 security deposit to rent the space. VIPS requested $750 each from the County Commission and City Council on Thursday—both of which approved the request.
“Thank you [Steve and VIPS] for helping out with the COVID testing and vaccines and just everything. I heard through the grapevine with the CALEA accreditation from Chief Gregory, that they really praised your all’s organization as one of a kind really,” Commissioner Sam Nolte expressed. He added, “I’ve seen a difference just in the operations of how the city police department works. It’s been helpful. We appreciate the volunteerism.”
The VIPS program is a partnership between the Buckhannon Police Department (BPD), the Upshur County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), the Upshur County Citizen Corps Council (CCC), and the Upshur County Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). The BPD seized an opportunity to recruit citizens to assist local law enforcement with large scale events—such as the West Virginia Strawberry Festival—and members of VIPS volunteer as an extension of the BPD.
VIPS officers are First Responders and have been trained in First Aid, CPR, basic search and rescue, basic firefighting, traffic and crowd management, and basic disaster response. In 2020, VIPS began with 12 members and trained three new members during the year to end. They volunteered over 1,515 hours and saved the City of Buckhannon and estimated $35,000 in labor.
If you’re interested in becoming a VIPS member, follow the directions on the BPD’s website by going to https://www.buckhannonpolice.com/VIPS.html. Prospective members must: be willing to help the community; be willing to meet new people; be interested in working closely with law enforcement; be willing to wear a cool uniform and hat; be over the age of 18 years; and be willing to undergo a background check.